Gerald Griffin.

Holland-tide ; The Aylmers of Bally-Aylmer ; The hand & word ; The Barber of Bantry, etc. online

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nearly in the same state in which he had left them, with
the exception of the increased prosperity of his mother's
circumstances, and the matured beauty of Ellen, who was
grown into a blooming woman, the admiration of all the
men, and it is said, though I don't vouch for the fact, o!
*U the women too, of her neighbourhood. There are

c



130 THE HAND AND WORD.

limits of superiority beyond which envy cannot reach, and
it might be said, perhaps, that Ellen was placed in this
position of advantage above all her female acquaintances.
It is not to be supposed that she was left untempted all
this while, or at least unsought. On the contrary, a
number of suitors had directly or indirectly presented
themselves, with one of whom only, however, I have any
business at present.

He was a young fisherman, and one of the most
constant visitors at the elegant soirees of the' widow
Moran, where, however, he was by no means a very
welcome guest, either to the good woman or her customers.
He held, nevertheless, a high place at the board, and
seemed to exercise a kind of dominion over the revellers,
perhaps as much the consequence of his outward ap-
pearance, as of his life and habits. He was powerfully
made, tall, and of a countenance which, even in his hours
of comparative calmness and inaction, exhibited in the
mere arrangement of its features, a brutal violence of
expression which was exceedingly repugnant. The middle
portion of his physiognomy was rather flat and sunken,
and his mouth and forehead projecting much, rendered
this deformity disgustingly apparent. Deep black, large
glistening eyes glanced from beneath a pair of brows,
which so nearly approached each other, as, on every
movement of passion or impulse of suspicion, to form in
all appearance one thick shaggy line across, and the
nnamiable effect of the countenance altogether was not
improved by the temper of the man, who was feared
throughout the neighbourhood, as well for his enormous
strength, as for the violence, the suspicious tetchiness, and
the habitual gloominess of his character, which was never
more visible than when, as now, he affected the display of
jollity and hearty good-fellowship. It was whispered,
moreover, that he was visited, after some unusual ex-
citement, with fits of wildness approaching to insanity,









THE HAND AND -WORD. 181

the accession of which he was woiit to conceal himself
from all human intercourse for a period, until the evil
influence (originating, as it was asserted privately among
his old associates, in the remorse with which the re-
collection of his manifold crimes was accompanied) had
passed away a circumstance which seemed to augur a
consciousness of this mental infirmity. At the end of
those periods of retirement, he was wont to return to his
companions with a haggard and jaded countenance, a de-
jected demeanour, and a sense of shame manifested in his
address, which, for a short space only, served to temper
the violence of his conduct. Robbers and murderers, as
all of his associates were, this evil-conditioned man had
gone so far beyond them in his total recklessness of crime,
that he had obtained for himself the distinguishing
appellative (like most nicknames in Irish low life, ironically
applied) of Yamon Macauntha, or Honest Ned; oc-
casionally varied (after he had reached the estate of
manhood, and distinguished himself among the smugglers,
over whom he acquired a speedy mastery, by his daring
spirit, and almost invariable success in whatever he under-
took) with that of Yamon Dhu, or Black Ned, a name
which applied as well to his dark complexion, long, matted,
coal-black hair and beard, as to the fierce and relentless
energy of his disposition.

One anecdote, which was told with suppressed breath
and hivoluntary shuddering, even among those who were
by his side in all his deeds of blood, may serve to illustrate
the terrific and savage cruelty of the man. A Dutch
vessel had gone to pieces on the rocks beneath the Look-
out. The waves rolled in like mountains, and lashed
themselves with such fury against the cliffs, that very
speedily nearly all those among the crew who clung to the
drifting fragments of the wreck, were dashed to atoms oa
the projecting granite. A few only, among whom was the
taptain of thp. vessel, who struggled with desperate



132 THE HAND AND WORD.

vigour against the dreadful element, succeeded in securing
themselves on a projecting rock, from whence, feeble and
exhausted as they were, the poor mariners endeavoured to
hail a number of people, who were looking out on th^
wreck from the cliff-head above them. They succeeded i*
attracting attention, and the spectators prepared to lower
a rope for their relief, which, as they were always pro-
vided against such accidents, they were not long in
bringing to pass. It was first girded around the waist of
the captain, and then fastened around that of his two
companions, who, on giving a signal, were drawn into the
air, the former holding in one hand a little casket, and
with the other defending himself against the pointed pro-
jections of the cliff as he ascended. -WhBn very near the
summit, which completely overhung the waves, he begged,
in a faint tone, that some one would take the casket from
his hands, as he feared it might be lost in the attempt to
secure his own hold. Yamon was but too alert in
acceding to the wretched man's request ; he threw him-
self forward on the sand, with his breast across the rope,
and took the casket from his uplifted hand.

" God's blessing on your souls, my deliverers", cried
the poor man, wringing his clasped hands, with a gesture
and look of fervent gratitude, " the casket is safe, thank

God! and my faith to my employers " he was yet

speaking, when the rope severed under Black Yamon's
breast, and the three men were precipitated into the
yawning waters beneath. They were hurried out by the
retiring waves, and the next moment their mangled
bodies were left in the recesses of the cliff.

A cry of horror and of compassion burst even from the
savage hearts of a crew of smugglers, who had been
touched by the courage and constancy which was dis-
played by the brave unfortunates. Yamon alone remained
unmoved (and hard must the heart have been which even
the voice of gratitude, unmerited though it was, could not



THE 1IAND AND W03D. 133

soften or penetrate). He gave utterance to a burst of
hoarse, grumbling laughter, as he waved the casket in
triumph before the eyes of his comrades.

" Huh ! huh !" he exclaimed, " she was a muthaun
why didn't she keep her casket till she drew her paintLei
ashore?"

One of the men, as if doubting the possibility off the
inhuman action, advanced to the edge of the cliff. He
found the rope had been evidently divided by some sharp
instrument; and observing something glittering where
Yamon lay, he stooped forward and picked up an open
clasp-knife, which was presently claimed by the unblushing
, monster. However shocked they might have been at the
occurrence, it was no difficult matter for Yamon to
persuade his companions that it would be nowi?e con-
venient to let the manner of it transpire in the neigh-
bourhood; and in a very few minutes the fate of the
Dutchmen seemed completely banished from their re-
collection (never very retentive of benevolent emotions),
and the only question held regarded the division of the
booty. They were disappointed, however, in their hopes
of spoil, for the casket which the faithful shipman was so
anxious to preserve, and to obtain which his murderer had
made sacrifice of so many lives, contained nothing more
than a few papers of bottomry and insurance, valueless to
all but the owners of the vessel. This circumstance
seemed to touch the villain more nearly than the wanton
cruelty of which he had been guilty ; and his gang, who
were superstitious exactly in proportion to their want of
honesty and of all moral principle, looked upon it as a
supernatural occurrence, in which the judgment of an
offended Deity was made manifest.

This amiable person had a sufficiently good opinion of
himself to make one among the admirers of Ellen
Sparliug. It is scarcely necessary to say that his suit was
unsuccessful. Indeed the maiden was heard privately to



134 THE HAND AKD WORD.

declare her conviction that it was impossible there could b
found anywhere a more ugly and disagreeable man,
every sense.

One fine frosty evening, the widow Moran's was moi
than usually crowded. The fire blazed cheerfully on tl
hearth, so as to render any other light unnecessary
although the night had already begun to close in. Tl
mistress of the establishment was busily occupied in re-
plenishing the wooden noggins, or drinking vessels, with
which the board was covered ; her glossy white hair
turned up under a clean kerchief, and a general gala
gladness spreading an unusual light over her shrivelled
and attenuated features, as by various courtesies, ad T
dressed to the company around her, she endeavoured tr,
make the gracious in her own house. Near the chimney-
corner sat Dora Keys, a dark featured, bright eyed giri,
who on account of her skill on the bagpipe, a rather un-
femiuine accomplishment, and a rare one in this district
(where, however, as in most parts of Ireland, music of
some kind or another was constantly in high request)
filled a place of high consideration among the merry-
makers. The remainder of the scene was filled up with
the fishermen, smugglers, and fish-jolters ; the latter wrapt
in their blue frieze coats, and occupying a more un-
obtrusive corner of the apartment, while Yamon, as noisy
and imperious as usual, sat at the head of the rude table,
giving the word to the whole assembly.

A knocking was heard at the slight hurdle-door. The
good woman went to open it, and a young man entered.
He was well formed, though rather thin and dark skinned,
and a profusion of black curled hair clustered about his
temples, corresponding finely with his glancing, dark,
fiery eye. An air of sadness, or of pensiveness, too, hung
about him, which gave an additional interest to his ap-
pearance, and impressed the spectator with an involuntary
respect. Mrs. Moran drew back ?.ntli one of her lowest



THE HAND AND WORD. 13

curtsies. The stranger smiled sadly, and extended hia
hand. " Don't you know me, mother ?" he asked. The
poor woman sprung to his neck with a cry of joy.

All was confusion in an instant. " Charles " "Charlie"
-" Mr. Moran " n as echoed from lip to lip in proportio
fc> the scale of intimacy which was enjoyed by the several
Speakers. Many a rough hand grasped his, and many, a
good-humoured buffet and malediction he had to endure
r jefore the tumultuous joy of his old friends had subsided.
At length after all questions had been answered, and all
old friends, the dead, the living, and the absent, had been
tenderly inquired for, young Moran took his place among
the guests ; the amusements of the evening were renewed,
and Yamon, who had felt his importance considerably
diminished by the entrance of the young traveller, began
to resume his self-constituted sovereignty.

Gambling, the great curse of society in all climes,
classes, ages, and states of civilization, was not unknown
or unpractised in this wild region. Neither was it here
unattended with its usual effects upon the mind, heart, and
happiness of its votaries. The eager manifestation of
assent which passed round the circle, when the proposition
of just " a hand o' five-and-forty" was made, showed that
it was by no means an unusual or unacceptable resource to
any person present. The young exile, in particular,
seemed to catch at it with peculiar readiness ; and, in a
few minutes, places and partners being arranged, the old
woman deposited in the middle of the table a pack of cards,
approaching in shape more to the oval than the oblong
square, and in colour scarcely distinguishable from the
black oaken board on which they lay. Custom, however,
had rendered the players particularly expert &t their use,
aud they were dealt round with as much flippancy as the
newest pack in the hands of a demon of St. James's in oui
own time. One advantage, certainly, the fashionable
gamesters possessed over these primitive gamblers : the



13f> . THE HAKD AND WORD.

tatter were perfectly ignorant of the useful niceties of play,
so much in request among the former. Old gentlemen,
stags, bridges, etc., were matters totally unknown among
our coast friends, and the only necessary consequences of
play, in which they (perhaps) excelled, were the out-
rageous violence, good mouth-filling oaths, and the ferocioiw
triumph which followed the winnings or the losses of the
several parties.

After he had become so far acquainted with the dingy
pieces of pasteboard in his hand, as to distinguish the
almost obliterated impressions upon them, the superior
skill of the sea-farer became apparent. Yamon, who
played against him, soon began to show symptoms of
turbulence, which the other treated with the most perfect
coolness and indifference, still persevering in his good play,
until his opponent, after lavishing abundance of abuse on
every body around him, especially on his unfortunate
partner in the game, acknowledged that he had no more
to lose. The night had now grown late, and the guests
dropping off one by one, Moran and his mother were left
alone in the cottage.

" Mother ", said the young man, as he threw the little
window-shutter open, and admitted a gush of moonlight
Tvhich illumined the whole room, "will you keep the
fire stirring till I return : the night is fine, and I must go
over the cliffs".

" The cliffs ! to-night, child !" ejaculated the old woman,
" You don't think of it, my heart ?"

u 1 must go ", was the reply ; " I have given a pledge
that I dare not be false to ".

" The cliffs !" continued the old woman. " The way is
uncertain even to the feet that know it best, and sure yon
\vouldn't try it in the night, and after being away till you
ilon't know, may be, a foot o' the way ".

" When I left Ellen Sparling, mother", said the young
r-.au, " I pledged her my faith, that I would meet her OD



THE HAND AND WORD. 137

the night on which she should receive from me a token she
gave me. She, in like manner, gave me hers. That
token I sent to her before I entered your doors this evening,
and I appointed her father's ould house, where he lived in
fcis poor days, and where I first saw her, to meet me. I
most keep my word on all hazards'". And he flung the
cottage-door open as he spoke.

" Then take care, take care ", said the old woman,
clasping her hands and extending them towards him,
while she spoke in her native tongue. " The night, thank
God ! is a fine night, and the sea is still at the bottom of
the cliffs, but it is an unsure path. I know the eyes that
will be red, and the cheeks that will be white, and the
young and fair ones too, if anything contrary should come
to you this holy evening ". " I have given her my hand
and word ", was Moran's reply as he closed the door, and
took the path over the sand hills.

The moon was shining brightly when he reached the
' cliffs, and entered on the path leading to the old ren-
dezvous of the lovers, and from thence to the ruined
building, where he expected to meet Ellen. He trudged
along in the light-heartedness of feeling inspired by the
conviction he felt, that the happiness of the times, which
every object he beheld brought to his recollection, had not
passed away with those days, and that a fair and pleasant
future yet lay before him. He turned off the sand-hills
while luxuriating in those visions of unchecked delight.

Passing the rocks of Duggara, he heard the plashing of
oars, and the rushing of a canoe through the water. It
seemed to make towards a landing-place further down,
and lying almost on his path. He pursued his course,
supposing, as in fact proved to be the case, that it was
one of the fishermen drawing his canoe nearer to the
taverns which were to be made the scene of a seal-hunt
on the following day. As the little vessel glided through
th* water beneath him, a wild song, in the language of



138 THE HAND AND WORD.

the country, rose to the broken crag on which he now
rested, chaunted by a powerful masculine voice, with all
the monotonous and melancholy intonation to which the
construction of the music is peculiarly favourable. The
following may be taken as a translation of the stanzas :



The Priest stood at the marriage board,

The marriage cake was made :
With meat the marriage chest was stored,

Decked was the marriage bed.
The old man sat beside the fire,

The mother sat by him,
The white bride was in gay attire

But her dark eye was dim,

Ululah! Ululah!

The night falls quick the sun is set,
Her love is on the water yet.

11.

I saw the red cloud in the west,

Against the morning light,
Heaven shield the youth that she loves bes

From evil chance to-night.
The door flings wide ! Loud moans the

Wild fear her bosom chills,
It is, it is the Banthee's wail,

Over the darkened hills,

Ululah! Ululah I

The day is past ! the night is dark !
The waves are mounting round his bark.



The guests sit round the bridal bed,

And break the bridal cake,
But they sit by the dead man's head.

And hold his wedding-wake.
The bride is praying in her room,

The place is silent all!
A fearful call ! a sudden doom !

Bridal and funeral !

Ululah! Ulul&fcf
A youth to Kilfi eh era's ta'en.
That never will return






THE HAND AND WOED. 139

Before Moran had descended much farther on his way,
he perceived that the canoe had reached a point of the
rock close upon his route. The fisherman jumped to land,
made fast the painter, and turning up the path by which
Moran was descending, soon encountered him. It was
Yamon Macauntha.

" Ho ! Mr. Moran ! Out on the cliffs this hour o' th
night, sir ?"

" Yes, I have a good way to go. Good by to you ".

" Easy a while, sir ", said Yamon ; " that is the same
way I'm going myself, and 111 be with yon ".

Moran had no objection to this arrangement, although
it was not altogether pleasing to him. He knew enough
of the temper and habits of the smuggler to believe him
capable of any design, and although he had been a stronger
built man than he was, yet the odds, in case of any
hostile attempt, would be fearfully in Yamon's favour.
He remembered, too, certain rumours which had reached
him of the latter being occasionally subject to fits of gloom
approaching in their strength and intensity to actual
derangement, and began to hesitate as to the more
advisable course to be pursued. However, not to mention
the pusillanimity of anything having the appearance of
retreat, such a step would in all probability have been
attempted in vain, for Yamon stood directly behind him,
and the path was too narrow to admit the possibility of
a successful struggle. He had only to obey the motion of
the fisherman and move on.

" You don't know", said the latter, " or may be you
uever heard of what I'm going to tell you now ; but easy,
and you'll know all in a minute. Do you see that sloping
rock down by the sea, where the horse-gull is standing at
this minute, the same we passed a while ago. When my
mother was little better than seven months married, being
living hard by on the sand-hills, she went many's the time
down to that rock, to fetch home some of the salt-water






140 THE HAND AND WORD.

for pickle and things, and never made any work of going
down there late and early, and at all hours. Well, it was
as it might be this way, on a fine bright night, that she
took her can in her hand, and down with her to the rock.
The tide was full in, and when she turned off o' the path,
what should she see fronting her, out, and sitting quite
erect intirely upon the rock, only a woman, and sht
having the tail of her gown turned up over her head, and
she sitting quite still, and never spaking a word, and her
back towards my mother. ' Dieu uth ', says my mother,
careless and civil, thinking of nothing, and wanting her to
move ; but she took no notice. ' Would it be troubling
yon if I'd just step down to get a drop o' the salt-water ?'
says my mother. Still no answer. So thinking it might
be one of the neighbours that was funning, or else that it
might be asleep she was, she asked her very plain and
loud to move out o' the way. When there wasn't ere a
word come after this, my mother stooped forward a little,
and lifted the gownd from the woman's forehead, and
peeped under and what do you think she seen in the
dark within ? Two eyes as red as fire, and a shrivelly old
face without any lips hardly, and they drawn back, and
teeth longer than lobster's claws, and as white as the
bleached bones. Her heart was down in her brogue*
when it started up from her, and with a screech that made
two halves of my mother's brains, it flew out over the
wide sea.

" My mother went home and took to her bed, from
which she never stirred till 'twas to be taken to Kil-
fiehera church-yard. It was in that week I was born. I
never pass that place at night alone, if I can help it-
and that is partly the reason why I made so free to ask
you to bear me company".

Moran had bis confidence fully reestablished by these
words. He thought he saw in Yamon a w wtch so
Shoe.



THE HAND AND WORD. 141

oreyed upon by remorse and superstition, as to be in-
capable of contemplating any deep crime, to which he had
not a very great temptation. As Yamon still looked
toward the rock beneath, the enormous horse-gull by
which he had first indicated its position to Moran, took
flight, and winged its way slowly to the elevation on
which they stood. The bird rose above, wheeled round
them, and with a shrill cry, that was repeated by a hun-
dred echoes, dived again into the darkness underneath.
Moran, at this instant, had his thoughts turned in
another direction altogether, by the sight of the little
recess in which Ellen and he had held their last con-
versation. He entered, followed by Yamon, who threw
himself on the rude stone seat, observing that it was a
place " for the phuka to make her bed in".

The young traveller folded his arms, and gazed around
for a few minutes in silence, his heart striving beneath the
load of recollections which came upon him at every glance
ind motion. On a sudden, a murmured sound of voices
was heard underneath, and Morau stooped down, and
overlooked the brink of the tremendous precipice. There
was a flashing of lights on the calm waters beneath, and
in a few minutes a canoe emerged from the great cavern,
bearing three or four men, with lighted torches, which,
however, they extinguished as soon as they came into the
clear moonlight. He continued to mark them until they
were lost behind a projecting crag. He then turned, and
in removing his hand detached a pebble, which, falling
after a long pause into the sea, formed what is called by
the peasant children, who practise it in sport, " a dead
man's skull". It is formed when a stone is cast into
the water, so as to emit no spray, but cutting napidly
and keenly through, in its descent, produces a gurgling
ovolution, bearing a momentary resemblance to the
tables of a human skull. The sound ceased, and all
again was still and silent, with the exception of the



142 THE HAND AND WORD.

sound which the stirring of the waters made in the mighty
cavern beneath.

" I remember the time when that would have won a
button* for me ", said Moran, turning round. He at the
same instant felt his shoulder grasped with a tremendous
force. He looked quickly up, and beheld Yamon, his eyes
staring and wild with some frantic purpose, bending over
him. A half uttered exclamation of terror escaped him,
and he endeavoured to spring towards the path which led
from the place. The giant arm of Yamon, however,
intercepted him.

" Give me, cheat and plunderer that you are ", cried the
fisherman, while his limbs trembled with emotion, "give
me the money you robbed me of this night, or by the
great light that's looking down on us, I'll shake you to
pieces ".

" There, Yamon, there : you have my life in your
power there is your money, and' now " He felt the
grasp of the fisherman tightening upon his throat. He
struggled, as a wretch might be expected to do, to whom
life was new and dear ; but he was as a child in the gripe
of his enemy. There was a smothering shriek of entreaty
a wild attempt to twine himself in the limbs and frame
of the murderer and in the next instant he was hurled
over the brow of the cliff.

" Another ! another life !" said Yamon Dhu, as with



Online LibraryGerald GriffinHolland-tide ; The Aylmers of Bally-Aylmer ; The hand & word ; The Barber of Bantry, etc. → online text (page 11 of 29)